The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) on Monday, (21st October 2019), published the annual Crime in India Report 2017, after a delay of two years. The NCRB, under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, is responsible for collecting and analysing data for crimes, as defined by the Indian Penal Code, (IPC), and special and local laws in the country. In what could be termed as a disturbing trend, the crime rate against women went up in 2017 by 6% compared to 2016 and by 9% compared to 2015.
According to the data released by NCRB, a total of 3,59,849 cases of crime against women were reported in the country. “Majority of cases under crimes against women were registered under ‘Cruelty by Husband or his Relatives’ (27.9%) followed by ‘Assault on Women with Intent to Outrage her Modesty’ (21.7%), ‘Kidnapping & Abduction of Women’ (20.5%) and ‘Rape’ (7.0%),” the report said.
While Uttar Pradesh topped the list, with 56,011 cases, followed by Maharashtra with 31,979 cases and West Bengal with 30,002, Delhi saw a 24 per cent decline in crimes against women from 2015 to 2017. The crimes against women in the national capital, including rape, dowry and domestic violence, declined from 17,222 in 2015 to 13,076 in 2017 while in 2016, the number was 15,310.
It is important to take into account the fact that the data published by the NCRB only accounts for the crimes that are actually reported. The data does not include, and in no way reflects, the crimes and offences that go unreported. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 gives an insight into the “trends in under-reporting of crimes by comparing data on actual experiences of crime victims with that of crimes recorded by the police, and compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau.”
According to a report published by livemint (HT Media) in 2018, “only a minuscule portion of incidents of sexual violence is reported to the police. An estimated 99.1% of sexual violence cases are not reported, and in most such instances, the perpetrator is the husband of the victim. The average Indian woman is 17 times more likely to face sexual violence from her husband than from others, the analysis shows.”
The rather ‘imposed’ socio-economic dependency of women, accentuates this unbalanced equation with their husbands and family members. The fear of social exclusion and related orthodox taboos, lack of effective response, and even acknowledgement, in many cases, result in Indian women being subjected to violence and intimidation, unwilling to open up. The numerous reports of misconduct and ‘under-reporting’ by police and other law enforcement agencies is another major reason. Similar incidents have been reported from Uttar Pradesh in recent times.
We also need to consider the impact of crimes against women in rural areas, and certain communities, such as the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and minorities. The women coming from such communities are forced to suffer under unimaginable hardships throughout their existence, bearing the blot of unjust gender norms, as well as caste and social hierarchies. Lower literacy and lack of awareness keep them uninformed of legal frameworks and provisions.
Policies and programmes, which support not only the health of women but also their overall socio-economic development need to be introduced. There must be an active focus on the prevention of sexual and gender-based crimes against females, including traditional, orthodox practices that compromise their health and restrict their overall growth and development.
Women in the remotest, most detached regions and communities need to be educated and informed. They need to be empowered. This, in conjunction with strictly enforced law and order, are sure to give us better numbers in all the NCRB reports to come, perhaps even none someday.
“So long as you do not achieve social liberty, whatever freedom is provided by the law is of no avail to you.” True to the words of Babasaheb, Social Liberty is the key to Justice. The key to Social Liberty, however, is Education.